Homeless in need of community help

17 Mar

David wk9.pngBy David D’Antonio, Bond Journalism Student

Community organisations and the Gold Coast City Council say more funding and support from citizens is needed to help the homeless in our city.

In the latest Census on homelessness conducted in 2011, more than 105,237 people were classified to be living without shelter in Australia, with more than 20,000 residing in Queensland.

Mr Numen Yarrie, originally from Sydney, has been homeless on the Gold Coast since getting out of jail in 2015.

He says he faces issues such as disturbance of sleep., often getting woken by authorities who force him to relocate in the middle of the night.

“The police come and tell us to move along – it always makes me feel horrible,” he said.

“I’m trying to keep dry and warm and we get told to go away.”

Mr Yarrie said he doesn’t feel the abuse ends with police officers, but that he experiences much of it on an emotional side from citizens.

“People are judging us every day of the week –we’re people who can’t get a break from society – they fail to realise that we’re just as human as they are,” he said.

When asked about how the homeless survive, Mr Yarrie said that St John’s Church at Surfers Paradise was of great help in serving his needs.

“We go to St John’s in Surfers where we can have showers, have hot meals and wash our clothes – they look after us really well,” he said.

The help does not end at St John’s alone; places such as homeless shelters, other churches and government agencies are credited with making an impact on homelessness.

Rosies, known nationwide as “friends on the streets,” provides meals and conversation for those in need, mostly relying on donations from the community, as well as volunteers.

Volunteer Robyn Rosen said she’s seen Rosies receive assistance from the community, whenever needed.

“You give people in this city the opportunity to be generous and they will be – we tell them what we need and they will supply it for you,” she said.

“There’s a lady that’s around 90 years old –  she travels here by bus every fortnight from Nerang to give us free resources.

“She often leaves us sandwich bags, soaps, teas, plastic knives, forks, sugar and whatever she can afford out of her pantry – every year she grabs kids’ presents and brings them for us to hand out.

“At the end of the day, the people we give these to are somebody’s family member –  there will always be somebody out there that loves them.”

Although Rosies and their volunteers know their efforts make a big difference, they acknowledge that it’s not enough and think the government should be doing more.

Rosies’s Gold Coast Branch Coordinator Wendy Coe said the Government needs to implement a ‘housing first’ method with the homeless to give them proper help.

“The Government needs to look at building multiple one-bedroom units to get people off the street,” she said.

“Housing first has been proven to be effective all around the world in eliminating homelessness, especially in America.

“After giving them proper shelter, you then attack their issues – drug addiction, mental health, whatever it is.”

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said that government aid is limited at the present moment, insisting there aren’t enough resources as the homeless rate increases.

“All levels of government are stretched with funds and the care agencies are reporting higher levels of homelessness,” he said.

The Mayor said the council’s dedicated branch, Safe and Liveable Communities, is working with state agencies, care organisations and programs such as Homeless Connect to develop solutions.

“We look at what council can do, what areas of the city are experiencing homelessness, and what resources can be put to good use,” he said.

Mr Tate said the Mayoress Charity Ball agency raised more than $200,000 two weeks ago, directing some of the funds to homeless support agencies on the Gold Coast.

He said the root cause of homelessness is complex, with some cases being the result of family breakdowns, substance abuse, mental health and a loss of identity.

The Mayor extended an invitation to all Gold Coasters to do their part in the community by showing understanding, donating to agencies in need, and if possible, volunteering.

“I ask all Gold Coasters to continue to give with their hearts, to support accredited agencies such as Homeless Connect, and to show empathy towards those they see in need,” he said.

“A kind smile, the offer of help, donations of goods including clothing, or even a weekend volunteering at Rosies can give you a real sense of humility.”

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